When is Homicide Self-Defense? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

When is Homicide Self-Defense?

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Kyle Bolaski Kyle Bolaski
Robert Simpson Robert Simpson
Skylar Underhill Skylar Underhill

Chester, Vermont - August 19, 2008

The issue of necessary self-defense has taken center stage in the case of a shooting that happened in a Chester park. One man shot another but claims it was all in self-defense.

Kyle Bolaski, 24, says it was justified self-defense because he was being chased by a man with an ax.

But Bolaski was charged with murder because he fired two shots.

The prosecutor agrees the first shot was justified self-defense but said the second was unnecessary and that made it a murder.

"The deceased stopped pursuing the defendant and was no longer brandishing an ax," Windsor County Prosecutor Robert Sand explained on Monday.

"Jurors may well be reluctant to second-guess someone who's in that type of situation," said Robert Simpson, a former Chittenden County Prosecutor.

Simpson declined specific comment about the Bolaski case, but he says there have been similar cases where defendants who claim self-defense and perhaps used way too much force nonetheless got sympathy from the jury.

"They put themselves in a situation where they or themselves or their families are threatened. And it is necessary to respond with deadly force then to say you used too much... It's very difficult for them to say, gee I don't know if I were in that situation if I would have been able to have stopped," Simpson said.

A recent case indicates Simpson may have a valid point.

Last year, Skylar Underhill was tried for murder for fatally shooting an unarmed man at a party in Burlington. Underhill claimed it was self-defense because he thought the man was reaching for a knife. The jury agreed. Underhilll walked away scot free.

Simpson says it's all about the fundamental legal principle that permits citizens to kill in self-defense.

"If you reasonably believe that the person you want to use the gun on presents an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to you or your family and you reasonably believe it's necessary to use deadly force to stop them," Simpson explained.

For now, Bolaski is jailed on the murder charge while police continue to sort out all the facts including that of witnesses with conflicting accounts.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

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